The CineFeels | What Exactly Turns a Good Poster Into a Great One?

The CineFeels | What Exactly Turns a Good Poster Into a Great One?

Picture this:

It’s 1977. You’re a kid in the movie theater with your family, uncertain of what to see. Nobody can make a decision. Everyone is puzzled. Then, while looking over the posters hanging outside of the building, something catches your eye. Featured by this magical hidden light around the poster in a frame is this new movie called Star Wars.

SW POSTERThose vibrant colors. The three heroes standing there ready for battle. And, lurking in the background, the evil bad guy. All of them surrounded by explosions, robots, and awesome space ships. And from that very moment you knew this is the movie you’re going to see.

Posters can be a powerful piece of marketing for a film. Unlike with a 1977 Star Wars poster, people nowadays tend to decide which film they want to see based on other things (like the magic of trailers), but a good poster always stands out.

They feature the important information about the film, burns its image into your brain, and sticks with you until you see the movie.

Posters are powerful for movies. So, let’s examine what is the marketing magic about movie posters that gives you The CineFeels.

The Making of A Classic

star wars soloNow, let’s go back to that Star Wars example. Imagine seeing that movie sparked our unyielding love for cinema, so through the ’80s and ’90s, you were able to enjoy the some of the most iconic posters in film history.


movie postersThese days; however, posters have been–for a lack of better terms–bad.

Without pointing any fingers, majority of posters we see now consist of a lazy Photoshop job that consist of every single one of the main characters (and even some of the secondary ones) in front of a boring backdrop. What happened to the creativity? The art? The storytelling that comes with the poster?

The talent, the inspiration, the skill: It all seems to be gone.

Now, the question becomes all the more relevant: What was it about those now iconic movie posters that keeps them stuck in your mind?

baby driverOne common theme in all of those posters is a clear sense of what the movie actually plans to unveil. Ironically, it’s the one thing missing from many of today’s posters.

One look at Jaws, and you immediately know it’s a about a shark terrorizing tourists. Look at Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and see the film is about a ‘too cool for school’ kid breaking the rules.

This hasn’t been completely lost with modern movie marketing. Look at Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. 

At a glance, it may appear like a typical action movie poster, but look closer. Everything you need to know about the film is right there — the action, shooting a car, the trail of music, and how all of that is connected. Detail without going crazy. That simplicity is perfect in execution. 

Keep It Simple and Sweet

jurassic_parkOne of the simplest and most commonly broken tricks is to just keep things simple. The simpler a poster is, the better it will be (most of the time).

Now, that’s not to say that every poster needs to be simplistic. The original Star Wars poster wasn’t and it still worked. When it comes to art, there are no set rules to follow, so there are always going to be exceptions.

Majority of the time, a simple poster is visually more striking than a complicated one. There’s less for the eyes to focus on and it allows for the color and subject to take center stage.

The reason why posters like Alien and Jurassic Park are so iconic is because of its simplicity. A single image on top of a black background, that’s it but it’s effective!

alienukdcposterThe starry background and alien egg on the Alien poster tells you what you need to know about the film while giving you a sense of the claustrophobia felt throughout the film.

As for Jurassic Park, the dinosaur crossed amusement park logo is all that’s needed to set up the intriguing concept.

Simplicity is a trick many poster artists nowadays should learn to master. While some complex posters can be iconic, too many of them look like a cluttered, lazy mess. By keeping it simple, it allows more focus on what really matters in a poster: art, concept, and sometimes character.

Capturing A Character’s Essence

ferris movie posterNot every poster needs to include the film’s main characters, there are plenty of amazing posters that do not, but the ones that do carry a big responsibility.

The posters that put its film’s characters front-and-center have the additional baggage of capturing the essence of those characters in a single image. This is something the original Star Wars poster did so well. As hard as it may be, getting the characters “right” is absolutely critical to the marketing success of the film. Nobody wants to be sold something they’re not going to get.

For example, look up. The poster of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off perfectly shows how to define a character. There he is, Ferris, the “too cool for school” kid who breaks all the rules and just looking for fun. He’s appealing, which brought the audiences closer to making the decision to go see on the screen what they saw on the poster. 

bkfastThe same can be said for another John Hughes’ film, The Breakfast Club. The poster captures the personalities and dynamics of the main character group, which hooks the audience to see the film just to learn what happens to those teenagers. 

While not as ambiguous as Jaws or Jurassic Park, a simple character poster can be more intriguing than any quality of artistic work. All successful movie character posters show that the cast can have a way of  reaching the audience more than most concepts can. 


There’s Still Hope

it chapter 2In the end, a poster has a simple, yet difficult goal: Communicate the concept (sometimes its characters) in a visually appealing way.

Today, the artistry of posters seems to have been lost, but there’s still hope. While majority of posters are lazily created, there have been some great examples with the aforementioned Baby Driver, as well as IT, Ad Astra, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

While some posters have shown its effectiveness in simplicity, there is still an uphill battle to be fought. Blockbusters continuously pump out lazy posters because, frankly, posters don’t matter as much as they used to, but that’s no excuse.

With the fan-backlash that followed the posters of Spider-Man: Far From Home (and other blockbusters that shall not be named), this all has to change sooner rather than later, if production houses want to regain the things that give us — through posters — the CineFeels. 

Movie Posters Courtesy (In order of appearance): 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm, Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures/Zanuck-Brown Productions, Universal Pictures/A&M Films, 20th Century FOX/Brandywine Productions, TriStar/MRC, Paramount Pictures, KatzSmith Productions/New Line Cinema

Written by:

79 Posts

Writer, filmmaker, gamer, and a huge film geek! I could talk about this stuff for days... try me. Follow me on Twitter at @MrDude_7
View All Posts
Follow Me :

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.